The nine-banded armadillo is expanding its territory into parts of the country it has never been seen in before, taking everyone from wildlife experts to homeowners to pest and wildlife control services by surprise.
The mammal—known for its distinctive armor—is native to Central and South America, as well as parts of the Southwestern United States and Texas. However, in recent years it has been expanding its range as far north as Illinois and Nebraska, according to the National Wildlife Federation. These animals prefer warm, wet climates, which makes some of the most recent sightings head-scratching events: What are they doing outside of their typical habitat, where are they going, and what’s triggering this change? This animal’s evolving range isn’t as much of a mystery as it seems, but it carries some consequences for the environment.
Nine-banded armadillos have been slowly expanding their range since the 1900s, but they have moved rapidly north to states such as Illinois, Missouri, and even Michigan in the past few decades.
The climate is warming both in the armadillo’s typical habitat and north of that range, so armadillos are becoming more active earlier in the year in their typical habitat and expanding into places where summer temperatures match that of their preferred clime.
According to BobVila.com data, the armadillo’s migration is reflected in readers’ reference of an article on getting rid of armadillos, as well as in requests for pest or wildlife control in states outside of the species’ range in 2023.
Climate change leading to increasing temperatures and more food availability is thought to be the cause of this expansion, but the growing population is naturally seeking territory with less mating competition.
Experts predict that the armadillo may be able to push its northern territory border all the way to New England and that there will be some effects, both positive and negative, on the land.